Shane Lowry made a blistering start to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he carded a 10-under-par 62 to tie the course record and take a three-shot lead.
The Irishman was blemish-free in his opening 18 in the United Arab Emirates, matching Henrik Stenson’s record – set 13 years ago – at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Having started at the 10th, his front nine was magnificent and he made the turn in 31, missing a chance for eagle on the 18th despite sending his approach to four feet.
Lowry atoned for that disappointment by starting his back nine with three successive birdies, before holing from 20 feet at the seventh and gaining another stroke at the eighth.
He was unable to convert from 12 feet to take the outright course record after another superb approach but still matched his career-best score from the 2009 Irish Open.
“I’m obviously over the moon. It equals the best score I’ve ever shot,” Lowry said. “I knew that, as well, and I said it to my caddie coming down the last – ‘A birdie here would be the best score I’ve ever shot’, to which obviously he said, ‘Well then why don’t you just go for it’.
“I left the putt short but I felt like I hit a decent putt, it was just a bit more into the grain than I felt, and yeah, obviously I’m very chuffed.
I only hit 4 fairways https://t.co/EfV2wlYysP
— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) January 16, 2019
“I had quite a lot of time off since the World Cup but put in a decent bit of work the last two weeks over here in Dubai and I’ve just gone out with not much expectation but knew I was playing okay and yes, everything clicked.”
Pablo Larrazabal, Louis Oosthuizen, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Richard Sterne form the quartet three adrift, with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer among five players four strokes off the pace.
World number two Brooks Koepka is five back after a bogey-free round and the three-time major champion, with Dustin Johnson among a host of players two further adrift.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood also has work to do after an inconsistent start to his bid to win the title for the third year running.
Fleetwood, whose triumph last year marked the start of an excellent 2018 that saw him finish third in the Race Dubai and was marked by a stunning performance at the Ryder Cup, signed for a 69 to sit level with Johnson.